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The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is different from the Data Protection Act (DPA) in that it relates to all recorded information other than personal information. The Act was brought in to enhance honesty and openess of Local Government.

Schools should consider adopting a policy - an example is in the next panel.

All schools must also have a model Publication Scheme and again one is given int the next box.

Any correspondence could include a request for information. If it is written (this includes e-mail), legible, gives the name of the applicant, an address for reply, electronic or otherwise, and includes a description of the information required, then it will fall within the scope of the legislation. The correspondent does not need to mention the FOI Act.

It is very important to draw a distinction between requests and routine correspondence. Requests for information that can be provided without any question - such as recruitment brochures, leaflets, press releases and the text of public speeches - should be treated as business as usual.  Requests which are not for recorded information, but instead ask questions, such as please explain your policy on please explain your decision to do you are not requests for recorded information and therefore should be treated as routine correspondence.  You will need to decide for yourselves if you wish to record these type of requests.

The FOI Act provides a right of access to information. Information should therefore be released wherever possible.

There are 20 working days in which to answer the request.  That is from the day after the request arrived in the building or your inbox - if it has been misdirected that does not change the 20 working days, only reduces the time you have to answer the request.

You have two duties when answering a request under the FOI Act:

  • A duty to confirm or deny we hold the information
  • A duty to offer advice and assistance

 If you receive a request for information which you think comes under this legislation, it is important to contact your School FOI Officer as soon as possible, so that the request can be logged, and ensure that the response is handled correctly, applying any Exemptions if necessary.

There are a number of Exemptions that may apply to a request, but will be applied on a case by case basis.  There is no exemption for embarrassment.  So be aware when creating documents and emails that they may be released to the public.